Commuting

It's rare when I don't finish a ride at the same place I started.

It’s rare when I don’t finish a ride at the same place I started.

Every once in a while, I actually use my bike to help with an errand.  Yesterday was one such time as I dropped off my car at a mechanic and used my bike to travel 20 miles to my house.  I dropped off the car after work and headed out into the evening rush hour and a 40 degree day.

Showing up at an auto repair shop with a carbon bike definitely attracts attention.  Emerging from a bathroom in cycling gear will earn you a look or two as well.  Strangers will start conversations with you about when they used to cycle, or marvel at the incredible distance (20 miles!) you are about to embark upon.  With equal amounts of bemusement and fanfare, the clientele and workers sent me on my way.

The ride went well.  The initial three miles were the trickiest and I was grateful to be doing it while the sun was still up.  Traffic was heavy on Godwin Road with no shoulder.  Riding with a backpack full of the day’s office clothes was an interesting sensation and I also realized my ability to look over my shoulder at traffic would be impeded.  The forecasted rain mercifully failed to materialize.

In short order I was across the very busy Nokesville Road and into suburbia.  I was surprised to see a bike lane at this point, which unexpectedly ended at the border between Manassas City and Prince William County.  The lane really wasn’t necessary since traffic was very light.  Four miles later, with the sun completely set, I linked up with the mixed-use path which parallels Rte 234, and made my way home without incident.

I was a little surprised not to see a single cyclist over my entire journey, despite it being rush hour.  Small wonder why Washington DC was just announced as having the worst commute in the nation.  It seems like the suburbs still have a way to go before we begin to embrace cycling as a commuting option.

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16 thoughts on “Commuting

  1. I think the problem stems from the fear of death by texting ‘n driving. I want to ride most places, but get afraid after several near misses with auto-drivers with no real concern for cyclists — some even hostility. i have had people shout at me to get off the road and shout profane things in my direction–even though I am following the law. How do we get this changed??

    • The theory is that until we reach some hard-to-define number of cyclists on the roads, we’ll always be so few in number that we’ll be perceived as insignificant annoyances. A long long time ago, roads were viewed as places to be shared by all sorts of vehicles/people. In America, that notion has been replaced by the idea that roads are the domain of automobiles and everything else is just getting in the way.

      • That seriously frustrates me. Having a child who was hit by a car I am fully aware of the damage such an event would bring to my life and that of my family. I am frustrated that I have to be limited when I can’t get over the nerves. Still, I keep trying!

  2. I left DC to come to Boston last year and used to ride the Bikeshare bikes around. Wasn’t so bad right down town and a lot of people bike in Northwest. They seem to be really pushing for more bike lanes, so that’s good, now just need everyone to get out of those cars!

  3. Shonnie, there is no answer, these people have been around forever and always will. One of the best ways I’ve found to minimize problems is ride as close to the edge of the road as possible, but there is no, program, strategy, law or enforcement to make some people be decent human beings, just got to live with it.

    Steve, I just got a job at the post office, literally 50 feet from my front door. Good commute.

  4. That’s the best commute – the mechanic drop-off! Will you do the return pickup? It’s the only way I will get my car worked on now, by bike. Isn’t that the best? 🙂 I also get looks and comments. I figure they all wish they’d thought of it, too, hehe. Safe riding, and happy trails.

    • I suspect so. Repairing the engine will cost me about as much as an entry-level road bike. I’ll be getting it on Monday – rain is in the forecast. Good times.

      And thanks for stopping by!

    • Thank you. 20 miles MIGHT be tolerable for me on at least an occasional basis, but unfortunately my office is even farther away – 35 miles. I’ll pass on that cycling commute, thank you.

  5. Hi Steve, I commute daily here in York, its less than 4 miles each way. You doo see a lot more people cycling to work / School here as its very flat. But its dark at commute time here between October and March, and the roads are much narrower than in the US. I’ve commuted for over thirty years and never really been scared of the traffic, but you read more of incident involving cyclist / cars these days. With the recent success of British cycling the government is pushing it more and lots more people want to do it, which is good for your health and the enviroment, but we still have a fare share of those who thing roads are not there for cyclists.

    • Narrow streets have at least one advantage – they force cars to slow down. American streets (especially in the suburbs) have speed limits approaching highways, which mean car drivers get used to going fast even in residential areas. And since there are so few cyclists in the suburbs, it is often a surprise to come across one. If the driver (or cyclist) isn’t paying attention, accidents can happen.

      Basically, the idea that a person can commute by bicycle is foreign to anyone living outside a city and a great many Americans choose to live outside of cities, thus the phenomenon of urban sprawl. We love our cars and have built entire road networks and cities to accomodate them. Changing that won’t happen overnight.

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